YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

December 2003

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken
Production Editor: Pedro Sena
European Editor: Moshe Benarroch
Contributing Editors: Martin Zurla; Rita Stilli; Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp

ISSN 1480-6401




        Why Does Anyone Write?

         BUNDLE UP
         FIRST SNOW
         CAN WE IMAGINE . . .
         GEM LURE



         Biographical Note



Why does anyone write? In my case, it began simply as fun, around the age 
of seven, as soon as I could pencil words phonetically into short sentences. 
Delighting in radio adventures of the day, first I scrawled detective 
stories crackling with sound effects. Gradually, their noise gave way to
tamer fictions about kittens and horses. Following the Beat Generation,
like many adolescents I turned inward through poetry.

As a woman, I shaped my early books close to home, in the domesticity of
Motherpoems (1985), the neighbourhood of Familiar Faces/Private 
Griefs (1986), and the childlike playfulness of Read-Aloud Poems
(1993, Revised 2001) and occasional light verse. Over the years, gradually 
poetry became a quest. As my focus shifted to the angst of middle age,
Clarity Between Clouds (1991) looked for patterns to make sense of 
the life lived. In turn, while staring uneasily ahead at ageing, illness, 
and death, Where the Light Waits (1996) raised the broader 
question of what makes us civilized. In my latest (yet to be published) 
manuscript Petra, the angle has widened further, filtering the 
science of Earth’s metals, gemstones, and mining through folklore and 
imagination. What marvels and quirks there are in our shared physics. 
Under shifting surfaces, I continue to look for a mysterious order that 
interconnects us and inspires our sense of wonder and aesthetic beauty. 
I am also a realist, however, whose darker poems on individual suffering 
and war probe the violations of that order. 

In my poetics, the writer is a magician. She creates a parallel world 
sensuous enough to draw the reader in and become, for a few moments, 
part of the illusion. The poem is vicarious experience (be that experience 
actual or made up, lyric or narrative). "It’s just like a movie inside my 
head," a child once paid my writing a high compliment. Ideally, I want the 
language to say what it must without wasting breath, to be as three-
dimensional as a rock on my palm, and even if the subject matter is brutal,
still to feel part of a larger, pleasing pattern. Little by little, I am 
also learning how to make my lines more musical -- a challenge for my next 

Travel, crisis, and danger sharply contour a poet’s writing. My dramas, 
however, have been essentially internal. Any poems set abroad are purely 
imaginary, inspired by reading the newspaper, or absorbing the accounts of 
better-travelled friends. While I enjoy socializing occasionally, within 
a quiet, family-centred life I also need long stretches alone, often 
retreating to the anonymity of coffee shops and subway trains to write.
What follows is a cross section of my work, arranged from earlier to 
recent, suggesting the range of my subjects and treatments. I hope the 
poems stand up to your scrutiny. Even more, I hope you enjoy them.



"The Pardoner’s Tale"
drones on.
Across the touching desks,
lolling on the crooks of elbows
Nick and Yvonne stretch closer.
Hands share scribbles on a single paper
to quell the arms from reaching to embrace.
He’s gat-toothed like the Wyf of Bathe
and she a coy Madame Eglantyne,
"Amor Vincit Omnia".
They listen for a moment to my drone,
then dream themselves away upon a smile,
the Miller’s Handy Nicholas and Alisoun
before the flood.

And I, sag-shouldered and distended belly,
so very married, middleaged and stagnant,
ponder the Pardoner’s words:
lust, gluttony and greed.
I miss his ageless sins,
the nights we gorged on kisses till we hurt
and drank ourselves to bed with promises,
every hill and valley of the body
plundered and its pleasures won.

Profane delight -- how many years ago?
I’m not the Merchant’s January yet,
though May I’d long forgotten.
September nudges. Tumbling leaves curl dry,
though outwardly still golden.


for Polly and Stefan)

These are mothering days:
hollows warmed with hideouts’ flattened grass,
buttercups yellowing under a petal-small chin.

Rolled from ourselves, we watch wind puff clouds
faster than swollen sails dissolving in dream
shapes our lilting fingers trace out of blue.

Hollyhock horses graze on the sun,
nod us to bunch muscles, gallop in rhythms
wild as a wish, wide as our streaming tails
up, over the climbing hills.

The river catches us cold,
splashes surrender, shrieks under willows.
Green in their dappled shade, we twirl
-- "Rapunzel, let down your hair."

Fingers splayed, we croak, spring,
bump head-high on reality,
tumble back -- hot skin, prickled throats
redden with "Ouch!" and laughter.

The cool house beckons stillness and ginger ale.
Straight, motionless, table and chair
welcome us home to dusk’s steady, slow ticking,
old toys patient in corners.
The apple seed cupped on the kitchen sill
is a promise we watch, water again each day.

These are mothering years:
minutes folded back, one by one,
nightlight’s glow, one more drowsy page,
sleep’s blanketed kiss, before the bed
grows shorter and disappears into stars.


If I were a pebble
all day I’d lie on the shore
and listen to ripples
froth and fall.

I’d close my eyes and wonder
how many like me
the ocean was rubbing together,
smoothing our speckled, hard skins.

But gazing up at the night
I’d laugh how the moon dropped anchor,
splashing stars into millions
and never a one sprinkled down.

Hello, little pebbles, I’d call.
How’s the weather up there?
and dream the sky was a mirror
we swam in upside down.


On winter days
houses wear white hats
and bundle up to their porches in banks
so thick, so deep
sidewalks disappear.

Even an apple tree by the road
has pulled its long Johns on.
The street is a white cloak
to cosy the sleeping cars.

On winter days
we bundle up too
and tumble into the snow.
We lie on our backs,
fan angel wings,
and catch white stars on our tongues.

But we’re so fat
in red hats and mittens,
black boots, thick ear muffs, wool scarves
nobody trudging along the road
knows any more who we are.


for Larry)

Winter, like age, tilts our perspective.

The nights take longer.
We wait, with windows less open
pile up the eiderdown.

Padding down a dark hall toward midnight,
we wonder over curled comfort, our children
asleep, while any moment the nightlight may shatter,
a canyon open under the dreaming house.

Morning wakens us face-first,
ices feet to the floor.
Defined by the shivering room,
we are separate from snow
banking blue windows,
safe a little while longer
from icicle spears.
Robed in shadows’ white breath,
our expectations grow smaller.
We bend, grateful for light, warmth.

In winter we shed delusions,
turn wise:
the universe is a vast and comfortless space,
and we mere specks in its eye.


(for Stefan)

Ice -— and you spin out so fast
  it’s slow, slow, sliding and looping
    across a white silence 
      numbing your mind. 

Not even your eyes move.
  Your whole body is touch -—
    waiting and waiting   
      for tires squealing, a smash, the thud.

Waiting, as farther and farther you spin
  out past the flash in the centre lane.
    The snow is an endlessly winding sheet
      blackness tightens around you. 

When will it swerve, that last
  look in mortality’s face?
    When will physics play out 
      steel meeting steel beyond grace?

Waiting, as even farther you spin
  into the hurtling curb lane.
    Your heart has frozen its beating.
      Breath is an icicle jammed in your throat.

Why did you ever set out?
  Why did you listen to them?
    Why did you dare
      to challenge the wind?

And after the impact                 
  will you be able to feel another?
    Will you be able
      to feel?

Goodnight to this dizzying world.
  Goodnight to uncounted seconds.
    Goodnight to far off, lost friends,
      to whatever this metal womb entombs.

   —- and you feel the slide
     back, back 
        skimming the snow-mounded rail,

back, back, 
  sliding from sideswiping beams,
    back, back, 
      wet gravel crunching 
slower and slower -— till pulse
  flickers into your brain
     —- you just might 
         make it through this. 
Slower and slower -— a lurch.
  Your pores feel the side panel buckling,
    window rim fracturing glass.
      One last rattle, low scrape.
Headlights melt. From the dark
  your eyes
    your fear
      your life

ricochet back into place.


Deeper into the snow
they gallop on scarred
crimson heels.

Cornered, stiffening
withering spines
they try

to smile
how lovely
light falls in late afternoon

and go on denying
wind nipping at ankles
its indigo promise of wolves.

They shiver as each howl fixes
teeth in a razor-blade line
and suck in another sliver of pain.

Memory bangs into rage:
midnight will flicker here soon,
redden more faces felled by the dark,

limbs dangling
sinew severed from muscle,
stomachs and tongues pulled inside out.

They look at each other and count
how many days to each wrinkle,
how many nights are there left.

Their eyes are a doe’s stunned by a bullet,
bleeding into blue snow,
waiting for the moon’s wolves.


At your little white table, snug by the window,
Frau Ebel, I must pull back a vacant chair.

You lean against the past for support,
framed among Solingen watercolours,
crooked streets jutting pink upper storeys’
stubborn chins over cobblestones,
like you, refusing to crumble.

Indeed, one last time, let us raise
an invisible jigger of
smiling up from the gold-rimmed photo of Max
sleek as hair creme, brown double-breasted
arm hooking your plump silk waist.
In black and white, you are thirty forever;
husband, ashes ten years.
Yes, I remember loved verses from Ringelnatz*:
". . . Now you’ve become brooches and pictures and rings,
And I have an ashtray that’s made from your wings . . ."

Admit the old days are gone,
the past is a needlepoint rose,
although, Our Lady of Lace-Doilied-Tables,
you lovingly polish the Hummels and Rosenthal vase,
and underneath a starched housedress wear opals
to feather dust from memories’ crystal.

Hang onto life like an overfilled cream puff?
But when the bone-handled knife cuts a peach,
both halves fall back, one scooped of the pit.
You had no children, only friends.

They will think,
as coffee perks in their own little pots,
or sunlight catches on windowsill cacti,
of you: fine-spun white hair
nodding in smoke-ringed laughter
". . . Never to dig out her bones again
Nor touch them in their earthly bed
For one must leave the dead to rest."
My recitation is at an end.
Pretend not to see the closing book,
but you know I am here,
you know I am cold,
you know I must fold
your jewelled small hands into mine
and never let go.*

Kuttel Daddeldu, the Sailor, by Joachim Ringelnatz (1883-1934),
translated from German by Frank E. Thomas and Norman C. Marshall


(for Greta Ebel)

Like a clear blue stone
your memory is set in silver in my house.
Your love embroiders pillows
flowering on my bed,
hangs rushes, reeds, green music
among the quiet frames of watercolour towns’
black-inked bridges, lost roads:
an old world -- and you, young.

My mother wraps herself gold and brown
crocheted into afghan affection.
She dreams a pink
daisies, three wine glasses poised,
a river winding deeper through white days.

Along the crystal vase
my sister hears you sing,
ping beneath her fingernails.
You are pearls in her ears.
Hummel boy stomps homeward,
little basket filling up with dusk.

We all walk that way,
only you have gone before.
The rest of us
watch for signs.


My Prussian past holds no comfort.
This cobbled street overhung with windows
blinkers the eye, then thins
desire to twin blue spires,
or narrows the other way
to the town’s far edge
and a black tree.

Even snug courtyards, arch upon arch
opening ancient and slow
down vined walks to a distant bridge
curving over thick-timbered river,
offer no comfort, although
round calm reminds:
spaces wait to be filled.

Were my rooted forebears happier?
Did climbing tiered vineyards to town
sky eyes with anticipation
for a house to loom round a corner,
a gargoyled door
to glide open?

At night, golden with lamplight and snifters,
leaning back, did they sip and sink
under darkness’ unbroken music?
Or strolling arm in arm Sundays
through handkerchief-tidy parks
did they understand
how to uncrinkle pain,
how to nudge the crooked
and set it square?

Stone, high ceilings, night silence
upheld order, walled back
undergrowth creeping the town’s far edge.
Behind teacups, my ancestors
balanced politeness and longing,
smoothed troubled hearts like silk sleeves.

That is why I take no comfort in them.


for Merla McMurray)


Across rhododendrons, hollyhocks, roses,
summer fades from your garden.
Tall sons have gone.

The dark one, with delicate wrists,
the older one, blond, big-boned . . .
letters from Europe to open as light falls.

Little boys echo, then vanish,
evening’s last showers of gold.


And you, in beige lace, Irish linen,
surface smooth as an unstrung pearl,
watch night clouds slide down.

Leaning within the darkened bay window,
slowly you twist the rings round your finger.
Where does the future begin?

The wealthy Umbrian farmer
raising his glass at the marble-topped table
sweeps the air with wide hands:

"All my young days
around the whole world I have travel.
Here is the best. I stay."
An acre of earth
-- or inside our heads --
where do we wander, describe what is real?
Twenty years motoring weekly to King’s College, Cambridge,
painting seventeen hundred precise watercolours’
intricate revelations of cornice and spire

to the fat American guest at her Tate retrospective
"I grow roses," Lady Brockington sums up her life.
Remember the luminescence of Turner country,
mists burning pastels into simple canvas:
"Romantic Abstraction," the art critic claims.

You know better, have touched their soft fire.
Dreams are the same:
what is there, to be known.


But first the tangled plants must be taken down,
rooms emptied of complications,
the armoire sold for a comfortable wicker chair.

Kindred spirits murmuring dust from their frames
stop you, walking down a long hall.
You study their secret faces, and wonder
what train whistles into the evening,
when is the channel crossing,
before the shutter’s last click?


(for Merla McMurray, March 1990)


We create our own estates
within the mind.

Yours a quiet dusk in Italian hills
   amber on stucco and sandstone,  
     six centuries’ adoration of hands:
   Villa La Pietra -— first milestone
    crowning a cypress drive up vineyards and olive
   Villa La Pietra —- first step stone
    to pleasure flowering year round

In your calm, vanished ages blend:
the facade where Renaissance lintels
   curled to Baroque circa 1620
     for Luigi Capponi, the Cardinal,
opens into a frescoed rotunda
   circling up wrought, pewter stairs.
Glassed over since the 17th century,
   below, da Maiano’s fountain still splashes,
     ghost of a quattrocento well.


We create our own estates 
within the mind.

Objets d’art -— just so -— on the chinoiserie table,
   from a red velvet wing chair
     the butler is silently summoned
for Scotch —- in the right glasses -—
   and canapés.

From sixty rooms, evening opens
   French doors to parterre and sculpture
     —- giardino grande, restored in 1904.
Steps curve under pines, by fish pond and hedges
   till, along pea gravel, down a mossed second stair,
     beyond the round lower terrace, day rests.
Within his wisteria pergola, fading
   Apollo turns from Florence, departed friends,
     and gazes at shield and mitre cresting the house.

By its side, 400 years, the ilex bends
   toward rose-hung columns and rocaille grotto
     where, like sky-ceilinged rooms,
       boxed lawns edge twilight down the slope
round Hercules’ shadowy peristyle,
   and Marinali’s granite colossus
     lit by fireflies.


We create our own estates
within the mind.

Yours, time marked off with boxwood and yew
   hedge upon hedge mounting the theatre’s grass.
Music, whispering, laughter:
   six leafy wings shelter each a commedia player,
     Francesco Bonazza’s 18th-century marbles
       your father rescued from the Palladian villas
         abandoned along the Brenta Canal.

Yours, time outgrown in old kitchen gardens,
   giardino segreta, where a glass limonaia 
     ripens azalea and orange,
while the crumbling pomario wall
   —- so startling its robin’s-egg blue -—
     turns memory back to the house,
past servants, white in the sunken pantry,
   past potted oxlip, gardenia
     blooming pink along halls,
and climbs another dark stair,
   nodding as heavy portraits rise
     toward you along the wall.

When you sit in a corner by the drawing-room window
   and chat about semiprecious stones,
     you know this is where the light waits,
its legacy a debt one repays
   by showing admirers the house and grounds,
     by sipping Scotch -— in the right glass -—
       and offering a salver of canapés.

With courteous smiles you point out
   your father’s petit point chair,
     and chuckle when a guest mentions 
       —- Berenson? Oh my yes, and Duveen —-

while it is such a bother these days,
   spring sniffles, the servants . . .
     and you just turned 85.



A gull’s cry carves the bay
(Tell me,
what makes a civilized life?)

Starlings dive a basket of trash,
snapping black plastic inside with thick wings,
then hop on the edge, look around.

(If we keep oblique lines to a minimum
and fear a
frisson within larger calm,
if one gull rides out a cresting wave,

does it all make sense somehow?)


Like slicing a blue orange across
and raising the bottom half near eye level
to trace the outline of the flat

scanning the lake’s horizon
the neck twists in an arc.
How could past ages not deduce the earth’s sphere?

They must have sensed this much roundness at least:
the earth not a lid
laid over the underworld

but the cutaway part, their sky,
and horizon the far
rim lost sailors fell off.


How many have watched this loose splash and wobble,
crest and collapse,
smashing on haphazard rocks

-- no hopeless beating against a wall,
but whitecaps chasing to shore
tumbling and spilling over each other

like children running the sand, throwing bodies
after their arms, after pebbles
the waves gather into their frills?

How many have counted
blue’s flouncings and fallings
shoreward to slide in and slam?

The same wave never repeats itself.
Another surfaces from the deep.
Not a drop falls over the edge.

Waves are Romantic, washing from unknown shores
bringing the distance in.
Swim out! they circle and splash

and pull us away -- to ourselves,
open the mind to air’s lightness,
shake off the heat of the sun.

They bring us the underside of the mirror:
life in reverse, inside turned out
-- lungs to gills

spaces between our fingers finned,
yearning an undertow
pulling us further down, further out.


In contrast
are fish ponds and fountains
civilized -- or claustrophobic?

Boxed in some parodied ocean,
fish swim eternity’s tightening circles.
Longings bump against corners, concrete.

All day, all night water plashes.
What dulled existence
a marble basin provides.

Or maybe that’s all fish want,
to swim for swimming’s sake,
not tourists, but saints in communion with water

so one with their element
they have no need
to sense anything else?

The highest serenity, such
life without thoughts
like being a cloud or a stone.

It’s man that’s blessed
-- and cursed -- with a mind,
that leans toward the horizon

wondering always
what’s on the other side
or below.


If a thousand caged chickens lay eggs on conveyer belts,
by turning them into food-machines,
is a farmer civilized?

If we treat every beast like a part
of the same whole
in which we live

create, not produce,
enjoy, not consume,
are we?

The civilized honour a constant
flowering from the past,
not a lone moment in digital time.


Hot milk cups hands at nap time:
Sir Harold wrapped in his blanket
dreams on the terrace, in afternoon sun.

The rose-entwined bone china
curves like a Victorian corset,
headless vessel of whiteness and warmth.

Wine glasses curve too
and salvers, and Florentine chairs.
Candelabra -- yes, in the old days.

(What softness do chrome and glass fear?
Time for sunlight?
Time to breathe deeper

to pluck a chord unheard in the self,
make it sing
-- a pre-Walkman music of the spheres?)

A civilized life means
finding the curve in the once-straight line, the bay

riding the waves’ hidden shapes
like a gull,
like a cry.


(for Larry)

Ten years old,
inside the snow-crusted window, watching
over your neighbours’ red-tiled roofs
you hear it
flashing in frost-bright air.

Beyond the emptied laneways, the mountain
rises, ice-hung vineyards thinning
higher and higher
-- white quickens
black, as the slopes swarm.

Fleas could spring
and drop like that
except these specks
these echoing pops and cracks
dot the snow red.

Frozen into the window, watching
you will not flatten against the wall
but count the flashes of tracer fire
shattering tiles on your neighbours’ roofs.


(Rwanda, 1994)


After hesitant knocking
our neighbour’s two young boys at the door
today hold out no plucked chicken,
no sweet-steaming loaves,
but high in their small tight hands
flash a bent kitchen knife,
a trembling machete.

Behind them
blocking out sky
the fat corner grocer,
the barber from four houses down
wave a stained paper, and shove them toward us
These are the names!


The moon crawls under a cloud.
We’re running deeper in darkness
breathless to reach higher grass.
Stumbling over soft mounds
we drag up the toddler.
Baby squirms in one arm.

Over us wafts the warm
night air soured with blood,
and ears can’t stop:
thump, thud, bone-crunch, in rhythm
between lightning-white screams.

Our eyes see over and over
up the dripping stone stair
a sanctuary, massed candles
-- in every sputter and toss
giant shadows
bending and swinging.


Crossing the border at dawn
stomachs are gourds scooped hollow.
Eyes crack open with dust.
How many neighbours, brothers,
spouses, children
-- gone

and finding no manna
on blood-poisoned water
we drop in an unpromised land
stinking of diarrhea and death
our refuge of no return.

We cannot imagine. . . .


(Chironex Fleckeri)

Drawn through darkness
to lights unknown at the edge of a pier
it hovers in summer-warm waves.
Shimmering filaments
bunch and straighten,
bunch and straighten,
a gelatinous clockwork
that kills
-- but it has no brain.

Ghostly transparence
four-faced (each with an eye)
it turns full cornea and lens
sensing small shadows
to flee, or entwine
shellfish, children,
fragrant flesh
bumbling into its fiery sting
-- instant death
but it has no brain.

What we call Evil
is it the same:
more than a criminal
slashing to power
but the universe rippling
its infinite net
to destroy to create to destroy
to create
-- but it has no brain.

How much is our will
how much, swept along
on another dark wave
rushing to lights we cannot explain
at the brink of a pier
or regime?
The jellyfish swallows and swallows
for aeons
-- but it has no brain.


Oh, I would be a god.
-- Lenny Everson

Who would be a God -- Such juggling!
Scheduling rivers to run backwards
or a crack to lengthen and widen
boiling up black smokers beneath the sea.
And what to do about Popo Chang’s petunias
soccer-balled by red-necked boys,
or Antarctica melting,
while ants wobble a giant breadcrumb
toward their hungry mountain of sand?
The bluest skies have ignited with suicide drones.
Within the next sixty seconds,
how many thousand more
babies -- which genes? what gender? -- should be conceived?
Churches, synagogues, mosques, gutters, or temples,
the centuries’ dizzying babel deafens.

Infinities of invisible sprockets!
From orbits to neutrons, keep all spinning
across string theory’s ten dimensions.
What of that fat firecracker, chaos?
Forever its sizzle is so tempting
to shatter every well-oiled cam and pinion
in any present and possible universe.

Isn’t mere mortal fussing enough of a headache
-- to dig from clean laundry two navy socks that match
and remember not to sprinkle the cactus
except every fifteenth day,
let alone halt wars, seed famines,
and recharge a global economy?
Each body is, after all, a whole cosmos
revolving joints in their sockets, dodging those rogue asteroids
cancer, Parkinson’s, pneumonia,
not to mention woofing and warping
around space-time’s white hole,
the soul.

Too much!
God only knows.


(for Anne Lazare-Mirvish)

I do it with love.
Fingers thickened with clay
trace his sinewy hands
-- so beautiful
spreading into rest.

Posed in her studio,
this aged personage she sculpts
is unfestooned with medals and ribbons,
simply a kind, good man
months widowed
and jagged with grief.
His high cheeks, muscled
by decades of dignified smiles,
bunch much thinner now.
She’ll pare some fullness
from his earlier sitting
-- but sparingly, for art must be
not a bronzed surface
but the resonance.

She sculpts.
His shoulders sink,
and as the long-pooled darkness
spills across his words,
she halts her scalpel and snaps,
So what? So what?
Loneliness, she knows,
can thicken drop by drop
and choke the spirit down,
an oil-soaked clump of feathers.

He nods, half smiles. She probes.
So hard she yearns to mould
around this wired emptiness
not the once-sleek figurehead
but his fragile ruggedness
that breathes.
Going on, she scolds,
takes little day-by-day braveries.
Yet even as her fingers
pinch and press raw clay,
the wires’ layered emptiness
stares back

-- If you have the art . . .
she hears her own darkness
swooping in to hover,
doubts spilling over . . .

So what? So what? he snaps,
and she discovers
her subject probes
and shapes the sculptor too.



He wooed her, and wanted her, but she
knocked pedestals across his path,
tottered high and mocked as he
puffed along in rough pursuit,
stumbling over chunks of timeless marble.

Sweeping laurel overhead,
further out of reach she danced,
page-white skin and golden metres
flashing recklessness.

She could fly,
gowned in gossamer on sheerest wings,
laughter high and light as rainbows
curving after clouds.
She could sing
mysteries around his heart,
pricking him like nettles drowned in honey.

He scanned the countryside:
fields, hills, silent empty green,
no rhythms, rhymes, and images’
ink approximations of her
form and eerie flowing.

He sat down in the dust.
Sad, his fingers drew
circles, moons, stars,
a universe of undulating lines,
primal geometric patterns
waiting to be filled.

Up he jumped.
Enough of unknown songs!
He’d take his words
from more familiar tongues.
Feet secure as boulders,
heartbeat sure and strong,
forward he trudged
on free verse of his own.


She fluttered round a bend. Waited.
At last, sat down upon a mossy stone.
The vacant landscape bleated.
Again she had no one.
Why? Men pursued her, wooed her,
offered kisses at her airy hem,
wove her daisy chains, or daring,
chased her like old fauns.
Pedestals? But to be hurdled
-- better, broken -- was the game,
yet, what poet played her way for long?

She kicked a rock aside.
It hurt her feet,
bare and delicate (to suit tradition).
How gritty, dust,
how hard her perch. Such heat
once wings gave way
and crumpled, and she sat
staring at defeat.

Who needed a Muse these days?
No one sang,
at least not to her tune.
Where to scamper once the poets
searched for other means
to lighten words
and let their music climb?

Being a shadow only,
she could not
sink into a self that others made.
She was a thousand themes,
ideal that changed
as it found its shape in poets’ minds.
Unpossessed: nothing.
Unpursued: unreal.
Yet a potential bound to live
scuffling stony paths,
dragging limpid wings,
weeping at memories
bright with pedestals.


When fingers fold around a rock,
mind may whisper jagged or light,
but gut cries solid!
Faith is built on rock,
health, riches, even the dream    
that hurtles a seeker into madness.

But let our microscopic eye
refocus from chunk, to chip, to grain, within
a ten millionth of one millimetre
and further, 100,000 times smaller
(skydome into pinprick)
enter the atom’s eerie cosmos.

Its blinding nucleus buzzes
neutrons orbiting protons
gluoned of
up/down quarks spinning
to keep from flicking into some other form,
to steady by shooting back alpha,
beta, and gamma rays beyond
the whizzing outer electron cloud.
Atomic frenzy -- is that
solid means?

Yes, and
at any moment
that every particle
is and is not:
at once, both lump and wave,
while Form that Plato idealized
physicists trace in antimatter
thrown off when atoms decay.

Look closer. That hunk of granite
straining and scratching your skin            
-- a fistful of electromagnetism.



It has to do with light,
setting a gem to warm
in the sun on a window sill
or laying it out
two nights before a full moon
to stoke its mystical powers.
For long ago, glisten and sparkle
were deemed the efflux of stars,
a gem, the cosmos’ reflection.

-- But also Mother Earth’s gift.
Bury it briefly, charge in salt water,
then rinse in a spring or rain,
and a gem
to our simple eyes appears
not subatomic quarks’ invisible whizzing
but flat, symmetrical facets
shining, solidified,
as one.

Their smoothness is calm
as the quietened space
where a gemstone chooses you
by cooling or tingling in your right palm,
drawing you closer, fonder,
through minuscule windows
to channel from deep within
and amplify subtle forces
that guide and ground
or from the top of the head surge down    
the arm, out through the crystal
to centre, protect, and heal a friend.


But what is light?
Electromagnetic vibrations
in waves from 350
to 750 nanometres long
fanning out in a visible field
the rainbow of our spectrum.

Red, orange, yellow, blue, violet, green
vibrating as one, cast a white light
unless in a crystal’s lattice
fissures, gas bubbles, metals, or bits
absorb particular wavelengths
or swallow them all, leaving black.

Long absorbing deepens a gemstone’s hue,
and multiple mirroring facets beneath
sharpen its crystalline brilliance.         
What of its outer reflecting? The lustre
glows beyond waxy or silky
to bright as adamantine.

A feather crack billows through moonstone
its delicate opalescent light
and fires agate with iridescence.
Feldspar glitters
from an included leaf
while a needle slits a sapphire
like a glowing cat’s eye
and opens up silky canals
in a ruby.

No wonder
we hold our breath
and stare into gem after gem.


Hanging 1,000 metres into the mine,
through wire mesh beneath your boots,
you glimpse lights twinkling
a further 2,000 metres down,
a black sea netted with stars.
This is the underworld.

Here, as time descends,
frozen rock thaws, leaning
inward warmer and warmer,
and manmade mists must billow away
invisible crystalline silica dust
breathing out deadly scars.

Snared in the wire cage,
pinched between forklift and loader,
a sudden drop -- and you’re loose.
Vertical rubber wheels hurtle you down
blurring level on level
as Earth’s heat rises
and rubberized coveralls
soften and glisten -- at more
than 35 degrees Celsius now.

Yank --
and the cage’s bungee-cord bounce
whiplashes to a stop.
Clasping your ears, you edge out
through thunder and eye-stinging dust
to a cavern 35 metres high,
hub of a hollowed-out vast wheel
that spokes into long angled drifts
where under low bolted ceilings
shaking dark helmets
rattle pneumatic drills,
while trucks rumble rock back and forth
loading more clattering chunks to roar
far down chutes into huge metal jaws
unseen beneath, crushing the ore.

Deep along one drift,
a manway is the only hole out
to the shadowy level below.
You ease hips and shoulders in
and rung by rung grip harder
during the angled climb down,
trying to breathe, wedged in,
not daring to freeze
half way.

At bottom,
splashing through seepage,
thank God, you are not alone
as helmet lamps are clicked off,
drowning you in a darkness so black
you can’t even focus, let alone guess
left side, or right, or up.
Is this how it is on death’s rim
-- sinking as senses dissolve?

An hour after,
uncaged above ground,
you blink into midday sun,
unlocking your breath to shake
the geologist’s steadying hand:
Thanks, for the tour through the mine.
Yes, quite an adventure.
Great story to entertain friends.
But you’ll never do it again.


Imagine, deep in the Earth,
crystals' ions intermingling
to bristle geodes with amethyst,
or sediments pressed under heat and time
meeting lava’s massive mineral folds
where the purest-grade ore
glimmers Plutonian secrets:
rifts and strata forming, reforming,
moving the continents.

Craving such jagged edges,
he bends over pages far into the night
by the light of a sharp desire
uncertain if he can fathom the steep
darkness of the way down.
Between the compass points of Death and Love,
whorls the centre’s magnetism.
Intuition watches the numbers dance:
There, under there, start to dig.

Blunt at first, a pneumatic drill,
deeper, a hammer pick
risk the wrong fissure,
force the layers apart,
and he goes on believing, despite
a tap askew that shatters the opal.

If time drags slow as tectonic plates
and patience smokes like a match,
does it matter, striking bornite, not aquamarine,
matter that he even digs at all?
No more than it matters that rain falls
and that Soufrières breathe.

In sunlight, one by one,
he lays out his stones, loving
their tints, their silky or ragged faces.
He fondles them,
speaks to them,
wants them to whisper back
how each formed,
what it grated against,
where some day it would go.

Even gneiss-heavy,
long pressed in,
ancient and beautiful, some aspire
to fly through air,
to taste sky fire
before melting into lava once more.

And so he raises their weight and brightness
high into wind and sun
in hopes other hands await
their shimmer and angles,
his humble translation
of eons into words.

All Poems Copyright (C) 2003 by Susan Ioannou


Biographical Note

Born to parents of Prussian/German descent, I was educated at the University of Toronto, married my steadfast Greek husband, and taught high school English until my son and daughter were born. For many years after, I worked for the literary magazine
Cross-Canada Writers’ Quarterly, led writing workshops around Toronto, and wrote -- poems, stories, articles, the children’s novel A Real Farm Girl (1998), and the literary study A Magical Clockwork: The Art of Writing the Poem (2000). For more than a decade, under my company name Wordwrights Canada, I ran The Poetry Tutorial writer’s correspondence course, which I recently transformed into the Web-based Lessons in Writing the Poem. A gateway to more about me is the University of Toronto Library Canadian Poets Web site http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/ioannou/index.htm


A New Age: The Centipede Network Of Artists, Poets, & Writers
An Informational Journey Into A Creative Echonet [9310]
(C) CopyRight "I Write, Therefore, I Develop" By Paul Lauda

Welcome to Newsgroup alt.centipede. Established 
       just for writers, poets, artists, and anyone who is creative. A 
       place for anyone to participate in, to share their poems, and 
       learn from all.  A place to share *your* dreams, and philosophies. 
       Even a chance to be published in a magazine.

       The original Centipede Network was created on May 16, 1993. 
       Created because there were no other networks dedicated to such 
       an audience, and with the help of Klaus Gerken, Centipede soon 
       started to grow, and become active on many world-wide Bulletin 
       Board Systems.

       We consider Centipede to be a Public Network; however, its a
       specialized network, dealing with any type of creative thinking.
       Therefore, that makes us something quite exotic, since most nets
       are very general and have various topics, not of interest to a
       writer--which is where Centipede steps in! No more fuss. A writer
       can now access, without phasing out any more conferences, since 
       the whole net pertains to the writer's interests. This means 
       that Centipede has all the active topics that any creative 
       user seeks. And if we don't, then one shall be created.

       Feel free to drop by and take a look at newsgroup alt.centipede

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  . REMEMBERY: EPYLLION IN ANAMNESIS (1996), poems by Michael R. Collings

  . DYNASTY (1968), Poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . THE WIZARD EXPLODED SONGBOOK (1969), songs by KJ Gerken
  . STREETS (1971), Poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . BLOODLETTING (1972) poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . ACTS (1972) a novel by Klaus J. Gerken
  . RITES (1974), a novel by Klaus J. Gerken
  . FULL BLACK Q (1975), a poem by KJ Gerken
  . ONE NEW FLASH OF LIGHT (1976), a play by KJ Gerken
  . THE BLACKED-OUT MIRROR (1979), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . JOURNEY (1981), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . LADIES (1983), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . FRAGMENTS OF A BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1984), poems by KJ Gerken
  . THE BREAKING OF DESIRE (1986), poems by KJ Gerken
  . FURTHER SONGS (1986), songs by KJ Gerken
  . POEMS OF DESTRUCTION (1988), poems by KJ Gerken
  . THE AFFLICTED (1991), a poem by KJ Gerken
  . DIAMOND DOGS (1992), poems by KJ Gerken
  . KILLING FIELD (1992), a poem by KJ Gerken
  . BARDO (1994-1995), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . FURTHER EVIDENCES (1995-1996) Poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . CALIBAN'S ESCAPE AND OTHER POEMS (1996), by Klaus J. Gerken 
  . CALIBAN'S DREAM (1996-1997), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . THE LAST OLD MAN (1997), a novel by Klaus J. Gerken
  . WILL I EVER REMEMBER YOU? (1997), poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . SONGS FOR THE LEGION (1998), song-poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . REALITY OR DREAM? (1998), poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . APRIL VIOLATIONS (1998), poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . THE VOICE OF HUNGER (1998), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken

  . SHACKLED TO THE STONE, by Albrecht Haushofer - translated by JR Wesdorp

  . MZ-DMZ (1988), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . DARK SIDE (1991), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . STEEL REIGNS & STILL RAINS (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . BLATANT VANITY (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . ALIENATION OF AFFECTION (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . LIVING LIFE AT FACE VALUE (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . HATRED BLURRED (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . CHOKING ON THE ASHES OF A RUNAWAY (1993), ramblings by I. Koshevoy
  . BORROWED FEELINGS BUYING TIME (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . HARD ACT TO SWALLOW (1994), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . HALL OF MIRRORS (1994), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . ARTIFICIAL BUOYANCY (1994), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy

  . THE POETRY OF PEDRO SENA, poems by Pedro Sena
  . THE FILM REVIEWS, by Pedro Sena
  . THE SHORT STORIES, by Pedro Sena
  . INCANTATIONS, by Pedro Sena

  . POEMS (1970), poems by Franz Zorn

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